Karin’s Leadership Articles

improved communication

You Lost Me at Hello: Practical Tips for Better Communication

by | May 7, 2014 | By Karin Hurt, Communication |

You’ve done important work, and you’re trying to get the team to understand your point. But before you get to page 3, John’s flipping to the back of the deck, Carol’s obviously distracted by her text messages, and you’d swear you saw a glimpse of Words With Friends on Tracy’s iPad. It’s true, that’s rude. What’s equally true is that this scene is calling for better communication.

I spoke with Joseph McCormack, author of Brief: Make a bigger Impact by Saying Less. His book offers great advice and tools for everything from presentations to sales pitches to small talk. I asked him for some advice for some of the more difficult communication situations.

Better Communication:  Q &A with Joseph McCormack

Q- What do you do when you’re presenting and you notice visible distractions like jumping ahead or multi-tasking?
A- First don’t let it happen. Plan better.  But to bring them back, speak in headlines. People fidget because they’re confused. Use stories to draw them back in. When speakers tell stories, they automatically relax. That comfort, along with the story, makes a connection that draws-in attention.

Q-What if you work in a Powerpoint and bullet-point addicted culture?  How can you incorporate some of these ideas and still fit in with the culture?
A- Be prepared to give the entire presentation in 3 minutes if something happened to your slides. Then start with that executive summary. Now they have a map to follow as you give the rest of your presentation. Also, there’s a free online tool called Haikudeck which helps you great visual presentations (I checked it out.  Love it!)

Q- You advocate the use of stories, but don’t stories take longer than sticking to the facts?
A- You’ve really got to practice, so you can get down to the essential elements of the story. Don’t tell the 5 minute version.Get the details that drill down to the core and enhance the meaning.

Q-What suggestions do you have for leaders giving tough feedback or messages to their teams?
A- Think about what you’re really trying to say, and say THAT as early as possible  Don’t extend the pain. Give bad news upfront and then the explanation.

Bonus Tip:

When you’re done with a phone call, look at the elapsed time before you hit end. Then ask yourself if what you accomplished was worth the investment.

For more information about Brief and to watch videos click here.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. bill holston

    I love this point. I have given a couple Pecha Kucha presentations. (20 slides timed at 25 seconds per slide). It’s a very very powerful format. It changed how I view communication and I now make brevity a cornerstone of my presentations. I just spoke to a church, who told me 3 minutes max. I told 3 short stories and quoted Seamus Heany’s wonderful poem Miracle at Troy, raised 4,000.00

    Thanks for this great reminder.

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, 4K in 3 minutes? I think I should hire you 😉 I love that you were able to get 3 stories in during that time. Thanks for sharing your example.

  2. Jim Ryan

    This is relevant for me today. Thanks

    Love the new look Karin!


    • Karin Hurt


      I’m so very glad.

  3. Dallas Tye

    First up- GREAT new look here. Fresh and bright.

    My tips from the basic end of the spectrum- never give out the slide deck before hand unless you are forced to, especially if its a conference call and you can’t keep an eye on all folks.

    Just use a screen sharing service like https://www.join.me instead, but have slides ready in an email to be sent if someone can’t connect.

    Tell them they will be getting a copy afterwards, so they don’t panic trying to get it all down and miss your important point.

    If you must use bullet points on a slide, use the option to have them appear when needed, so they know exactly what point you are discussing, and grey out the previous bullet for the same reason (but leave it on screen).

    Ask a few questions of people, but DON’T use the ‘pause, pose and pounce’ method where you ask a question then pounce on John who has been silent to answer it. This just embarrasses people and that’s not a good vibe for any meeting. Better to say (to John who has been quiet), I might get John’s input on this next question, giving him time to tune back in. Others will get the message that you want their attention.

    Send out your presentation as promised, ideally within an hour so folks can use their reflective memory to recall content when your slides arrive.

    Now review your bullets and slides, and cut them by half 😉

    • Karin Hurt

      Wow, Dallas, I think you just wrote a whole other post! Wonderful tips. LGL gets 2 for one today. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and practical advice.

  4. LaRae Quy

    Great article, Karin. And a great list of both questions and answers.

    I’m one of those who hate to watch powerpoint presentations, and you wonderful advice on how to get by without one. Too many people rely on pp’s instead of using their personality to make the presentation.

  5. Steve Borek

    I like the new site.

    Tip for better communication:

    Focus on the person in front of you. If you’re going to engage in a convo, make it count. People can sense when you’re genuinely interested or checked out.

    What drives me crazy? When the other person is looking at an electronic device i.e. phone, tablet, computer, etc.

  6. Steve Broe

    Great points, Karin. I believe in working with an agenda, and starting on time. People who arrive late have to figure the details on their own. You are absolutely right – prepare to deliver your message without a PowerPoint and have a shortened version for those who are impatient.


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